A Catholic Genealogist’s Spiritual Bouquet for All Souls’ Day

November 1 and 2 are two important days in the Roman Catholic tradition—the feasts of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. On All Saints’ Day, November 1, we celebrate the Church Triumphant—all the faithful deceased, known and unknown, who are now saints in heaven with God. On All Souls’ Day, November 2, our focus shifts to the Church Penitent—all the faithful departed whose souls must undergo purification (Purgatory) in order to enter the joy of heaven. We, the living, are the Church Militant, and together with the Church Triumphant and the Church Penitent, we make up the Communion of Saints. The basic premise of the Communion of Saints is that we’re all in this together: the prayers of the living can benefit those in purgatory, and the intercession of the saints can aide those of us who are still struggling through life.

This act of praying for others is so important, that the Catholic Church designates praying for the living and the deceased as one of the seven Spiritual Acts of Mercy. So, on All Souls’ Day, especially, we are encouraged to remember and pray for our deceased family members. Praying for the faithful departed can certainly be done in a general way, but many of us like to remember our family members by name. Consequently, All Souls’ Day is a holiday that Catholic genealogists can really embrace in a big way, since genealogy is all about the identification of our ancestors by name.

While the Rosary is a popular Catholic devotion for prayer and meditation, it occurred to me that its structure could also lend itself to use in offering a spiritual bouquet for All Souls’ Day. For those who might be unfamiliar with the term, a spiritual bouquet is “a collection of private devotional acts and prayers chosen and performed by one person for the benefit of another.”1 For those who might be unfamiliar with the Rosary, it’s a set of prayers that are recited, using a special string of 60 beads as an aid in keeping track of the progression through the prayers. A Rosary consists of opening prayers, then five sets of prayers called “decades,” followed by closing prayers. Each decade consists of an Our Father, followed by the Hail Mary (repeated ten times), and then the Glory Be. While it’s common to meditate on one of twenty Mysteries—events that took place during the life and death of Jesus and His Mother, Mary—while praying the Rosary, it’s also acceptable to focus on the words of the prayers themselves. I think that approach is easier if one is offering each prayer for a different ancestor or ancestral couple.

There are many ways that the Rosary can be adapted to pray for one’s ancestors, depending on where one begins with the family tree. In my Rosary, I wanted to include the souls of deceased members of both my family, and my husband’s. Since my mother is the only one of our parents who is deceased, I decided to offer the “Hail, Holy Queen” prayer (one of the closing prayers) for her, and offer the ten Hail Mary prayers of each decade for the souls of our grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents, as shown below in Version 1. Praying one decade each for my father-in-law’s family, my mother-in-law’s family, my father’s family, and my mother’s family, leaves one extra decade, which I decided to offer for all souls who have no one to pray for them.

As an alternative, I also set up a version focused only on my family (Version 2). In this version, the first decade is again offered for those souls who have no one to pray for them, followed by a decade each for my paternal grandfather and his family, my paternal grandmother and her family, my maternal grandfather and his family, and my maternal grandmother and her family. It’s a little easier to follow when using an example with names, so I’ve created examples for both Version 1 and Version 2, below. However, please note that in both versions, grandparents’ names have been redacted to protect the privacy of the living (my husband’s parents and my dad).

If you, too, are a Catholic genealogist, you can easily adapt one of these strategies to fit your own family tree. I made it easier for myself by printing out a “cheat sheet” with the names on it, but more power to you if you can do this from memory! Since it takes a little more focus, this is the sort of Rosary that lends itself to a quiet time and place, rather than a “Rosary on the run,” that you might say while you’re out walking or in the car.

May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

All Souls’ Day Rosary: Version 1

Opening prayers: As usual.

First decade: All souls who have no one to pray for them.

Second decade: My father-in-law’s family

  1. Husband’s paternal grandfather
  2. Husband’s paternal grandmother
  3. Paternal grandfather’s father, Michael Szczepankiewicz
  4. Paternal grandfather’s mother, Agnes (Wolińska) Szczepankiewicz
  5. Paternal grandmother’s father, Stanley Skolimowski
  6. Paternal grandmother’s mother, Helen (Majczyk) Skolimowski
  7. Parents of paternal grandfather’s father, Wojciech and Anna (Augustyniak) Szczepankiewicz
  8. Parents of paternal grandfather’s mother, Joseph and Tekla (Bogacka) Wolinski
  9. Parents of paternal grandmother’s father, Tadeusz and Marianna (Kessling) Skolimowski
  10. Parents of paternal grandmother’s mother, Stanisław and Aniela (Nowicka) Majczyk

Third decade: My mother-in-law’s family

  1. Husband’s maternal grandfather
  2. Husband’s maternal grandmother
  3. Maternal grandfather’s father, Joseph Ferdinand Bartoszewicz
  4. Maternal grandfather’s mother, Katherine (Levanduski) Bartoszewicz
  5. Maternal grandmother’s father, Albert Drajem
  6. Maternal grandmother’s mother, Mary (Kantowski) Drajem
  7. Parents of maternal grandfather’s father, Szczepan and Joanna (Olszewska) Bartoszewicz
  8. Parents of maternal grandfather’s mother, Stanisław “Edward” and Mary (Woźniak) Levanduski
  9. Parents of maternal grandmother’s father, Augustyn and Agnes (Jamrozik) Drajem
  10. Parents of maternal grandmother’s mother, John and Mary (Kończal) Kantowski

Fourth decade: My father’s family

  1. My paternal grandfather
  2. My paternal grandmother
  3. Paternal grandfather’s father, John Frank Roberts
  4. Paternal grandfather’s mother, Katherine Elizabeth (Walsh) Roberts
  5. Paternal grandmother’s father, John Sigismund Boehringer
  6. Paternal grandmother’s mother, Anna Julia (Meier) Boehringer
  7. Parents of paternal grandfather’s father, Michael Frank and Mary Elizabeth (Wagner) Roberts
  8. Parents of paternal grandfather’s mother, Henry and Martha Agnes (Dodds) Walsh
  9. Parents of paternal grandmother’s father, John G. and Anna Franziska (Murri) Boehringer
  10. Parents of paternal grandmother’s mother, Wenzeslaus and Anna (Goetz) Meier

Fifth decade: My mother’s family

  1. My maternal grandfather
  2. My maternal grandmother
  3. Maternal grandfather’s father, Joseph Zielinski
  4. Maternal grandfather’s mother, Genevieve (Klaus) Zielinski
  5. Maternal grandmother’s father, John Zazycki
  6. Maternal grandmother’s mother, Veronica (Grzesiak) Zazycki
  7. Parents of maternal grandfather’s father, Stanisław and Marianna (Kalota) Zieliński
  8. Parents of maternal grandfather’s mother, Andrew and Mary (Łącka) Klaus
  9. Parents of maternal grandmother’s father, Ignacy and Antonina (Naciążek) Zarzycki
  10. Parents of maternal grandmother’s mother, Józef and Marianna (Krawczyńska) Grzesiak

Hail, Holy Queen: For my mother

All Souls’ Day Rosary: Version 2

Opening prayers: As usual.

First decade: All souls with no one to pray for them.

Second decade: My paternal grandfather and his family

  1. Paternal grandfather
  2. Paternal grandfather’s father, John Frank Roberts
  3. Paternal grandfather’s mother, Katherine Elizabeth (Walsh) Roberts
  4. Father of person in 2, Michael Frank Roberts, in my case
  5. Mother of person in 2, Mary Elizabeth (Wagner) Roberts
  6. Father of person in 3, Henry Walsh
  7. Mother of person in 3, Martha Agnes (Dodds) Walsh
  8. All other deceased members of the Roberts family (Surname from 2)
  9. All other deceased members of the Wagner family (Maiden name from 5)
  10. All other deceased members of the Walsh and Dodds families (Surname from 6, Maiden name from 7)

Third decade: My paternal grandmother and her family

  1. Paternal grandmother
  2. Paternal grandmother’s father, John Sigismund Boehringer
  3. Paternal grandmother’s mother, Anna (Meier) Boehringer
  4. Father of person in 2, John G. Boehringer
  5. Mother of person in 2, Anna Franziska (Murri) Boehringer
  6. Father of person in 3, Wenzeslaus Meier
  7. Mother of person in 3, Anna (Goetz) Meier
  8. All other deceased members of the Boehringer family (surname from 2)
  9. All other deceased members of the Murri family (maiden name from 5)
  10. All other deceased members of the Meier and Goetz families (surname from 6, maiden name from 7)

Fourth decade: My maternal grandfather and his family

  1. Maternal Grandfather
  2. Maternal grandfather’s father, Joseph Zielinski
  3. Maternal grandfather’s mother, Genevieve (Klaus) Zielinski
  4. Father of person in 2, Stanisław Zieliński
  5. Mother of person in 2, Marianna (Kalota) Zielińska
  6. Father of person in 3, Andrew Klaus
  7. Mother of person in 3, Mary (Łącka) Klaus
  8. All other deceased members of the Zielinski family (surname from 2)
  9. All other deceased members of the Kalota family (maiden name from 5)
  10. All other deceased members of the Klaus and Łącki families (surname from 6, maiden name from 7)

Fifth decade: My maternal grandmother and her family

  1. Maternal Grandmother
  2. Maternal grandmother’s father, John Zazycki
  3. Maternal grandmother’s mother, Veronica (Grzesiak) Zazycki
  4. Father of person in 2, Ignacy Zarzycki
  5. Mother of person in 2, Antonina (Naciążek) Zarzycka
  6. Father of person in 3, Józef Grzesiak
  7. Mother of person in 3, Marianna (Krawczyńska) Grzesiak
  8. All other deceased members of the Zazycki family (surname from 2)
  9. All other deceased members of the Naciążek family (maiden name from 5)
  10. All other deceased members of the Grzesiak and Krawczyński families (surname from 6 and maiden name from 7)

Hail, Holy Queen: For my mother

Sources:

1 “Spiritual bouquet,” Collins Dictionary (https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/spiritual-bouquet : 31 October 2022).

Featured Image: Pixabay, “Holding String of Beads,” Stockvault (https://www.stockvault.net/photo/216640/holding-string-of-beads#, uploaded 22 November 2016, accessed 31 October 2022), Creative Commons license CC0 1.0 Universal.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2022

Genealogical Lost and Found

When researching, I sometimes stumble across records that are out of place or badly indexed. I’m usually struck with a feeling of empathy for some poor researcher out there, looking for a particular historical record and being unable to find it, due to this error.

Lost to Posterity

I’ve been researching my husband’s Lewandowski ancestors lately, and was searching in Ancestry’s database, “New York, U.S., Death Index, 1852-1956,” for a death record for yesterday. Anyone researching this popular Polish surname in U.S. records is probably familiar with the plethora of phonetic variants that were adopted by immigrant Lewandowskis. I’ve found that wildcard searching is an effective strategy for locating all possible variants, such as Levanduski, Levindoski, Lavandeski, Levinduskee, etc. All of these variants follow the pattern, L?v?nd?sk*, where ? replaces one character, and * replaces one or more characters. You can even go one step further, and search for L*nd*sk*, in consideration of the fact that some versions of the surname might have retained the original w instead of the English phonetic equivalent, v. This will return results which include the original spelling, Lewandowski, as well as variants such as Lanvondoski, Lawndowski, Lewandorsky, etc. Due to the popularity of this surname, it should go without saying that you’ll want to confine your search to a particular place and time period, to avoid an overwhelming number of search results.

But what about that first letter, L? Frequently, in old documents, the cursive upper case L was mistaken for an S. If the indexer could not read the handwriting on the original document, then Lewandowski and related phonetic variants could be indexed under Sewandowski. In fact, a search in Ancestry’s Passenger Lists database for the exact surname Sewandowski, produces 86 results. And while this number may not seem huge, it might be significant if your ancestor is among those 86 passengers.

Could Sewandowski be an authentic surname? Not likely. A search of nearly 44 million records in Geneszukacz—the search portal for all the databases of the Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne (Polish Genealogical Society)—produces exactly one result for Sewandowski, which includes Lewandowski as an alternate transcription of the surname, provided by the indexer. If the “Sewandowski” surname does not exist in Polish records, chances are good that all of those 86 passengers should have been indexed as Lewandowski.

This brings me back to my search for a Lewandowski death record. Bearing in mind this L-to-S transcription issue, I repeated my search in the New York Death Index, this time for *nd?sk*. Behold, search results included this one for Fanny Sewandoska, shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: “Fanny Sewandoska” in the New York, U.S., Death Index, 1852-1956 database.

The entry appears with other S entries, so it’s evident that the mistake was made when the original, handwritten index was created from the death certificates. Since Ancestry permits the addition of alternate information to database entries, I added “Levandoska” as an alternate surname for Fanny. I’m not even going to hazard a guess as to the original Polish given name for “Fanny.” However, the fact that her surname was recorded in its feminine form, Levandoska, rather than Levandoski, suggests that she was probably an immigrant from Poland, since feminine surname endings were typically abandoned within a generation or two after immigration.

Found Treasures

Conversely, we sometimes encounter “bonus records,” tucked into record books for one reason or another, that become found treasures. Back in 2014, while perusing microfilmed records from Transfiguration parish in Buffalo, New York, I stumbled across this baptismal certificate, shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Certificate of Baptism for Stella Kapela, baptized at St. Stephen’s parish in Middleport, New York, tucked into the marriage register from Transfiguration parish in Buffalo. Image from FamilySearch.

The certificate was included as proof of baptism for a bride, Stella Kapela, who was married at Transfiguration church in 1911. The date on the certificate, 1943, was curious, since it was so much later than the records in the place where this certificate was tucked into the book. Perhaps Stella remarried in the parish in 1943? Her name, and her parents’ names, Jacob Kapela and Frances Kraczyk, meant nothing to me, but I did a double-take when I noticed that her godparents were Edward Levenduski and Veronica Lepkoski. Edward was my husband’s great-great-grandfather, and Veronica was the sister of Edward’s wife, Mary (Woźniak) Levanduski. St. Stephen’s church in Middleport is the parish in which my mother-in-law’s paternal grandparents married, and it’s a good 40 miles from Transfiguration. Seriously, what were the chances that I’d be reading through the baptisms in one parish, for an unrelated family, and find names I recognized from a parish 40 miles away?!

Although my first thought was that Stella must be a relative, a little digging suggested that she is not. Rather, I think it’s likely that her family was connected to my husband’s family simply because they were all Poles from the Prussian partition, and specifically from the Posen province. Maybe if I dig back a few more generations, something more concrete will emerge, but for now, I think it’s time to lay this aside and move onto other things.

That’s enough rabbit holes for one night!

©Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2022